Saturday, October 24, 2009

J Street: "The center of American Jewish thought"

Below are two excerpts from a recent Atlantic Monthly interview with Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, which bills itself as "the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement." "JG" is interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg and Ben-Ami is "JB".
JG: Are you a Zionist?

JB: I am a Zionist personally. I am deeply committed to a Jewish home, to a democratic home, to a Jewish Israel. I'm deeply committed to that and you know my family background.

JG: Ben-Ami is a Jewish name, I think.

JB: Exactly. My great-grandparents were in the First Aliyah, my grandparents founded Tel Aviv, my father was in the Irgun. I've lived in Israel myself. I have 500 cousins there. I'm deeply committed to the safety, the sanctity and the security of a Jewish home in the state of Israel.

JG: Is J Street a Zionist organization?

JB: Well, we are unabashedly for a Jewish home in the land of Israel, that there should be a Jewish home that is a democracy, that has a Jewish character and a Jewish flavor and where the law of return is a fact -- I know you're having a disagreement with Bernie (Avishai) right now. I don't even know what he said about the right of return.

JG: That he wants it repealed.

JB: Well I don't agree with that, I certainly don't agree with that. I think that the notion is that there should be a homeland that is a Jewish homeland. That is the founding principle of J Street. The question is, how do we preserve it? That's where we seem to be getting attacked. Our view is that in order to preserve this, there just simply has to be an independent state for the Palestinians next door, and that's where they will live. And we live in Israel and we live there and there's always going to be a minority in Israel that is not Jewish and we need to treat them like equal citizens and value their participation in our democracy, but it is a Jewish home. This is the Jewish homeland. ...

JB: J Street officially will not use the term "One-State Solution." That is an oxymoron because it is a one-state nightmare. That is the thing we are most opposed to -- moving in a one-state direction.

JG: A nightmare for practical reasons or a nightmare for moral reasons?

JB: A nightmare for the Jewish people. There would be no more Israel. One state is not a solution, one state is a dissolution.

JG: The thing I'm worried about with the conference is that I think most of your supporters are well-meaning, left-of-center Jews who love Israel and are tortured by the various dilemmas, who do stay awake at night worrying about this. But there are others who are glomming on to you guys as a cover, just using you to advance another agenda entirely.

JB: I hope that we have a very strong left flank that attacks us, that Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups that are consistently upset with us for backing Howard Berman's sanctions plan and for refusing to embrace the Goldstone report and for standing up for the right of Israel to defend itself or for its military aid -- I hope we get attacked from the left because I would characterize J Street as the mainstream of the American Jewish community.

JG: You believe that you're at the center of American Jewish thought?

JB: I believe that we are at the center. The Marty Peretzes and the Michael Goldfarbs and the Lenny Ben-Davids are on the right, to the far right, and there are people to our left, and we are in the middle trying to put forward a thoughtful, moderate, mainstream point of view about how to save Israel as a Jewish home.

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The First Jewish President

I recently looked at the archived version of the Chicago Tribune article, "Barack Obama: The First Jewish President?" and decided to Google the title. Below are links to two of the articles that came up.
Click here for an update to this post.

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Open Letter to Wadad Abed

This post was gathering cobwebs in the drafts folder. I last worked on it on January 20, 2009. Wadad Abed did not support or attend the Batsheva Dance Company protest.

Dear Wadad Abed:

You joined a group of Zionist Jewish women in a Hasbara operation called Zeitouna. As a result of that experience you rejected your old notion "that the Holocaust was ... used to justify taking away" Palestine and you, instead, embraced tenets of the Holocaust Industry and told the Detroit Jewish News that, as a result, you "now accept[ed] Israel's right to exist."

Perhaps emboldened by your conversion to the Zionist cause, you teamed up with Zionist Aaron Ahuvia, the national secretary of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, as the sole Palestinian in the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice's "Imagine Process" and gave the thugs in the organization's leadership cover to make permanent the "suspension" of its Middle East Task Force and the ouster of the task force Chair, a fellow Palestinian.

In 2007, you became, literally, the voice of Zionist propagandist Laurie White at the Ann Arbor premiere of the Zeitouna movie. In 2008, you were reelected to the Board of Directors of the University Musical Society (UMS), when interviewed on the radio in connection with a concert hosted by the UMS you identified yourself not as a Palestinian, nor as a refugee but merely as "an immigrant [who] came here forty years ago." Shortly thereafter when local activists and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) called for a boycott and protest of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, hosted by the UMS, you were silent and missing-in-action.

After weeks of relentless Israeli bombing in the Gaza strip that has already killed hundreds of people, most of them civilians or policemen, and injured thousands more, many of whom may yet die for lack of medical supplies and facilities, your words and actions have never stung more painfully. And yet, now, you have signed an open letter to Barack Obama where, among other things, you say: "Almost certainly, the only hope of a lasting solution is a single state in Israel/Palestine, committed to the civil and human rights of all peoples within its boundaries, irrespective of religion or ethnicity" and "It is time for constructive disengagement from Israel, financial, diplomatic, military. What worked in the case of South Africa, divestment and pressure, may finally work in the Middle East."

Does this mean that you have trimmed your sails and, for the sake of mere appearences you are acting like you care about the people in your homeland more than friendships with Zionists? Does this mean that, unlike Dr. King, your sense of justice is adjustable to the tenor of the times?

Or does it mean you have finally cast off the blinders that prevented you from seeing or acknowledging the harm you have done to the Palestinian liberation struggle and the people you have hurt? Will you now speak loudly and work conscientiously in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel and in particular, the boycott and protest of the Israeli apartheid Batsheva Dance Company, which is to be hosted by the UMS next month? Or will you find excuses to nurse old grievances and to continue to collaborate with Zionists?

Update: It turns that Wadad Abed also donated $250 to John D. Dingell For Congress Committee on March 24, 2006. This is the same Dingell who has openly bragged: "I yield to no man in my support for Israel. I have voted for hundreds of billions of dollars for it over the years I have served here" and "... during my 50 years in Congress, I have proudly supported more than $300 billion dollars in aid for the State of Israel."

See also

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